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A Few Thoughts On Amtrak

March 2023
1min read

For those of us who fondly recall and relish rail travel, the new government-operated railroad network known as Amtrak leaves much to be desired. Skepticism about the quality and frequency of service appears warranted, as the National Association of Railroad Passengers News pointed out in a recent article entitied “Enthusiasts.” Herewith, from that article, are quotations from three directors chosen by the nation’s railroads to serve on the Amtrak board as the lines’ representatives:

Louis W. Menk, chairman of the Burlington Northern, speaking on NBC ’S “Today Show” on February 26, 1970, said that “in my view we ought to let the intercity passenger train, the long distance passenger train, die an honorable death like we did the steamship, or the riverboats and the stagecoach and pony express.”

William H. Moore, president of the Penn Central, told a news conference in Pittsburgh on September 9, 1970, that “probably all the railroads in the country are losing money in the passenger business” and that there is “absolutely no future in this country for long-distance passenger trains.”

William J. Quinn, chairman of the Milwaukee Road, told members of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce on November 13, 1969, that “we can no longer compete effectively for the passenger under present conditions, which are beyond our control to materially change,” and that “there is no foreseeable reversal of this march of events which has produced an exodus from trains.”

These remarks, all made before Amtrak came into existence, do not, we think, presage confidence in the system. The same NARP News quoted a member of its advisory board, Dr. Mario Pei, on the issue. Said Dr. Pei, who is professor emeritus of romance philology at Columbia University: “It is my considered judgment that the American railroad passenger system, once the finest in the world, is now on a par with underdeveloped countries, and in its death-throes. Also, that Amtrak is a snare and a delusion, designed to lull us into a false sense of security while the job of killing our passenger service is completed.”

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